By Ma Huaqing
Tokyo has decided to use an article from People’s Daily, the very own
mouthpiece official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, to support its claim that the Diaoyu Islands (which it refers to as the Senkaku Islands) belong to Japan.
Titled “The Struggle of the People of the Ryukyu Islands against U.S. Occupation” (琉球群岛人民反对美国占领的斗争) on January 8, 1953, the article was published in the “Files” (资料) section.
An extract from the article:
The Ryukyu Islands lie scattered in the sea to the northeast of our country’s Taiwan and southwest of Japan’s Kyushu Island, and includes seven groups of islands, namely the Senkaku Islands, Sakishima Islands, Daito Islands, Okinawa Islands, Oshima Islands, Tokara Islands, and Osumi Islands, each with large and small islands; more than fifty islands have names and more than four hundred are unnamed and small; their land area totals 4670 square kilometers.
Chinese netizens were totally shocked at the People’s Daily article. Many labelled People’s Daily a “traitor” and demanded an explanation, while others took a satirical stance on the issue.
This will bring out an interesting topic. As the Party’s official newspaper, which of the past articles are still valid? We can even trace all the newspapers established before 1949.
Japanese people do not understand China’s national conditions. Didn’t expect that they even take news from People’s Daily seriously.
Tell the Japanese Government: Whatever People’s Daily said is invalid, just take it as a joke. It even used to say that every acre of land yields tens of millions of paddy. You Japanese people also believe that?!
–Yu Jianrong, Director, Social Issues Research Centre, Institute of Rural Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also put up this People’s Daily article on its website and also included it in a Japanese slideshow presentation to state its stance on the Diaoyu Islands, saying that China once acknowledged that the Diaoyu Islands is a part of the Ryukyu Island. But Chinese scholars are refuting Tokyo’s assertions.
The article was neither a “commentary” nor an “editorial”. It cannot represent the stance by the Chinese government with regards to the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands. The saying that China used to acknowledge that the Diaoyu Islands belong to Japan is inadmissible.
–Liu Jiangyong, Vice President, Institute of Contemporary International Relations, Tsinghua University
International laws do not recognise newspaper articles as a form of stating the government’s stance. If not, what are diplomatic note and government statements for?
–Wang Jiangyu, Associate Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law
Associate Professor Wang pointed out that China’s late foreign minister Zhou Enlai’s Statement on the US-British draft peace treaty with Japan and the San Francisco Conference was the formal government document.
Without the attendance of the People’s Republic of China, no matter what the content and outcome are, the People’s Government of China believes without exception that they are illegal, and therefore invalid.
Other Chinese scholars say that in the People’s Daily article, residents on the Ryukyu Islands were collectively referred to as “the Ryukyu people”, and the article also mentioned that both “the Ryukyu people” and “the Japanese people” are from two mutually exclusive countries. Though not explicitly mentioned, it was clear that Ryukyu should be an independent country and does not belong to Japan.
In the 1950s, Ryukyu was a trust territory under the control of the United States, and the article was written in this historical context. Since it was a trust territory, its sovereignty did not belong to Japan. The arrangements made by the US and Japan due to strategic considerations in the Cold War era is problematic when it comes to international laws.
–Jin Canrong, Vice President, School of International Studies, Renmin University
Nevertheless, it looks like People’s Daily made a costly mistake when it published the article, which undoubtedly played a part in paving the way for the United States’ scepticism on China’s Diaoyu Islands claim.